Ahead of the September 19 Edo State and October 10 Ondo governorship polls and other bye-elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved a “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic”.

The purpose of the Policy is to enable officials and staff of the Commission to understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders as they prepare for elections. In addition the policy covers health and legal issues, election planning and operations, training, Election Day and post-election activities, voter registration, political parties, election observation, electoral security, and deployment of technology in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nigerian women, especially women politicians in Edo and Ondo state have continued to express worries on some of the challenges that may be encountered during the elections and may impact on women’s participation. Although the women commended INEC for taking the bold step for going ahead to plan towards conducting the elections, Women politicians in Edo state are concerned about the Commission’s advice for political parties to develop appropriate guidelines and regulations for the conduct of party primaries. They are worried that political parties in the state may adopt primaries processes which will automatically exclude women.

On health, some of the women noted that INEC needs to be more elaborate and put in the public domain concrete steps on what constitutes high temperature taking into cognizance the various individual differences in body temperature and in particular as it affects women who may have varied temperature as a result of  stress, pregnancy, sunlight, etc. and in the event of this, at the polls, they may be seen as a suspected case of COVID-19.

Strcuurally, the women called on INEC to properly situate sanitizing and washing materials in such a way tha the conduct of polls is not affected. They are also worried that politicians may hijack the use of facemask hence the need for INEC to come up with clearer information on the modalities for use of face mask.

On Voter education, the women advised that INEC must prioritize voter education as elections held during COVID-19 in other parts of the world have recorded low voter turnout. According to some women politicians in Ondo, INEC must deliberately ensure that  robust voter education and sensitization are properly conducted.

A resounding concern was that INEC must ensure that in delivering its mandate, the conduct of the election should be credible as there are already fears in some quarters that this would be difficult. Women and other stakeholders are hoping to witness a credible gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states come September 19th and October 10th 2020 respectively.

The women interacted were very affirmative in their call to women to actively participate in the elections as candidates, voters and election workers which also paying a very serious attention to their health and staying safe.